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Through the Lens

Rauner Adminstration Planning CPO Layoffs

Wed, November 23, 2016

This was one press release that landed in the in box this morning that I certainly could have lived without seeing. The sheer shortsightedness of this astounds me. I depend on the CPO's, you depend on the CPO's - when this all started I penned “Who Ya Gonna Call?”

My feelings have not changed. In fact if anything, they have grown stronger in support for our Conservation Police Officers.

Read it and weep folks…..

SPRINGFIELD – Hunters who are taking advantage of Illinois’ ongoing deer hunting season this year should take a close look at any Conservation Police Officers they encounter. Those sightings may soon be rare indeed, as the number of those officers could be reduced to what wildlife enthusiasts may call critically endangered status.

“Thirty-two of the state’s more than 130 Conservation Police Officers, including several decorated combat veterans, are slated to lose their jobs at the end of the year,” said Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council (FOP) Assistant Executive Director Shawn Roselieb. “This reduction in officers further erodes the oldest state law enforcement department which at one time boasted 189 officers. Neither the workload nor the responsibilities of the officers have diminished. All of Illinois’ natural resources and everyone who enjoys this state’s great outdoors will suffer the consequences of these reductions. The only people that will benefit are the poachers, polluters, and predators.”

Layoff notices have been sent to 20 current field officers and 12 recent graduates of the Conservation Police Academy. The officers are members of Local Number 804-1 represented by the FOP Labor Council.

“These layoff notices came from a governor who claims to be an avid hunter and outdoorsman and a big supporter of police and law enforcement,” Roselieb said. All of the officers targeted for layoff are employees of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). No layoffs are planned for IDNR administrative staff.

“Reducing the number of officers by nearly one-quarter will significantly reduce law enforcement on IDNR properties, water safety patrols, fish and wildlife protection, timber protection, endangered species protection, citizen rescues, snowmobile safety, hunter safety, and natural disaster response,” Roselieb said. “In addition, Conservation Police Officers perform Homeland Security duties around nuclear power stations, locks and dams, bridges and pipelines, and these responsibilities will suffer as well.”

Conservation Police Officers also assist local, state and federal law enforcement when called upon in cases ranging from misdemeanors to murder. Much of what Conservation Police do in the field is reimbursed by federal agencies, and reducing services endangers those federal funds.

In an impact statement submitted to the Rauner administration regarding the planned layoffs, the Illinois Conservation Police Office of Law Enforcement warned that if the reductions go through Illinois can expect extended response time for non-emergencies, little or no coverage on state lands during the boating season, reduced response during natural disasters and for Homeland Security operations, reduced protection of natural resources, no Safety Education courses for schools and civic organizations, and more overtime costs incurred.

According to official IDNR documents, the State of Illinois has already spent approximately $2.6 million to date on the current Conservation Police Officer trainee class for training and salaries. The deadline to certify the 12 remaining members of this class is December 31, 2016, the same day all of them are scheduled to be laid off.

The IDNR had planned to assign these trainees after they were certified as officers to some of the most well-used natural areas in the state, including Starved Rock State Park, Illinois’ most visited state park and the scene of frequent citizen rescues; Chain-O-Lakes, Fox Waterway and Lake and McHenry Counties, one of the most heavily used recreational boating areas in the nation; and the Frank Holten – Horseshoe Lake State Parks in Madison and St. Clair Counties, with more than a million visitors and a high incidence of crime and arrests.

Twenty-five of the targeted officers, including nine of the trainees scheduled for layoff, are combat veterans. These include Conservation Police Officer Joshua Mooi, who received the Navy Cross as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan following a Taliban ambush when he went back under intense fire multiple times to carry away wounded and killed Marines despite having his rifle being disabled by enemy fire.

Another veteran slated for layoff is Lisa Schoenhoff, who served with the U.S. Army National Guard in Afghanistan and received the Combat Action Badge. She is an IDNR defensive tactics instructor, academy adviser and physical fitness instructor and has been a Conservation Police Officer since 2012.

Justin Knopp is an IDNR officer trainee who served with the National Guard in Afghanistan as part of a mission to support Special Forces in that country. He had re-enlisted and requested to be deployed to Afghanistan as quickly as possible in order to meet the qualifications to be a Conservation Police Officer. He was the Valedictorian of his Conservation Police Officer Academy class.

“These reductions in staff seem like a slap in the face from a governor who professes his admiration of those who have served in our military. Conservation Police Officers know how to deal with threats from wildlife, water and weather, but this new threat of political gamesmanship is something our officers haven’t been trained for, and may be the most dangerous of all,” Roselieb said. “We urge everyone who values the great outdoors and a safe and peaceful society to contact their elected officials and demand that the welfare of our state is placed ahead of political gains.”

The FOP Local Number 804-1 is part of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, a law enforcement union representing more than 11,600 professionals in more than 514 bargaining units who work in the criminal justice system. The Labor Council negotiates and enforces contracts and improves salaries, working conditions, and benefits for law enforcement professionals throughout Illinois. Its members include police officers who work for municipalities, universities, and elected Constitutional officials; county sheriff’s deputies, correctional and court security officers; probation officers; 911 telecommunicators; law enforcement records personnel; and some related support staff.

Comments

Do you look at the states financial issues and history before you write this propaganda? Rauner is not the problem. Look no further than your buddy Mike Madigan and his Democratic cronies who have bled and mismanaged Illinois for the last 30+ years, while lining their own pockets and pensions! This is not an issue where the governor wants to lay off CPO’s. It is a budget problem which has infested every part of Illinois government (way before Rauner became governor in January 2015). Please save your partisan political views for your work on democratic campaigns.

Posted by buxandbass on November 23

Who is robbing our conservation fund where is the money going don’t we generate enough from hunting and fishing to pay our wardens? don’t like poachers sounds like we have some poachers in our conservation fund

Posted by cuttnstrut on November 23

Folks - we as a state are flat broke!  We HAVE to cut spending somewhere.  We didn’t get this way in the last year or so under Rauner. Not trying to defend him.  BUT - I in no way can understand how you cut about 30% of the workers (CPO’s), but NONE of the administrators??? There are fewer CPO’s to support by the reduction in CPO’s!!!  So why wouldn’t a similar percentage of administrative staff be cut as well?  What am I missing here???

Posted by Gilly1 on November 23

Thank you for your response.

While you obviously feel that this is another case of “Because Madigan!” I feel that it is an across the aisle issue that EVERY legislator should be working to resolve.

It’s impossible to leave Rauner out of the picture, or any way to paint him as the good guy in this scenario. Rauner’s administration issued the initial lay off notices, Rauner’s administration issued the most recent. Rauner signed off on them. He can hardly be considered blameless, nor can any of the other legislators in our state government, regardless of party affiliation who have chosen to not fight to keep the current number of CPO’s.

The loss of 32 CPO’s is not a partisan issue, it is a public safety issue.

If it truly is solely a budgetary issue only and a direct result of the democratic leadership as you surmise, would it not seem more feasible to spread out the layoffs across the various IDNR departments and job classifications rather than have the CPO’s take such a hard hit while only a very few other DNR positions are affected?

Posted by G on November 23

Amendment on next ballot to keep the DNR whole? come on hunters and fishermen what’s up with this.

Posted by cuttnstrut on November 23

Gilly1 - that seems to be the question of the day - and where are other state of Illinois employee layoffs occuring? i.e. what other agency or departments? Not human services funded by IL dollars, but actual State of IL employees? IDNR seems to be bearing the brunt of it.

Posted by G on November 23

Lets not forget about the MILLION$ lost due to the passing of the “safe road” amendment…how many sportsman never took the time to look into the amendment and still voted for it??? the headline on this very page stated “Safe Roads could devastate IDNR”....and now folks are surprised because we cant afford the CPO’s???

Posted by fooman on November 23

Fooman - we still don’t really have any hard answers as to how the Safe Roads Amendment will ultimately impact IDNR - there are still those in the department that say it won’t have a negative impact. I can’t really believe that, but only time will tell.

Posted by G on November 23

It was Madigan and Ryan that started this financial disaster and it exploded under Madigan and Blago.  It was also Madigan and the monster contributions by labor unions that pushed the safe roads amendment through.  How Madigan can continue to be elected is mind boggling.

Laying off 32 low paid CPO’s will have about as much impact to Illinois’ budget as taking a leak in the ocean to raise it.  Not sure what the motivation here is.

I don’t think we know yet what effects the amendment will have on the sustainability funds on vehicle registrations will be.  Most articles I have read said the details in the amendment are very vague and will take years to figure out.

Posted by buckbull on November 23

This is from my local press
“However, Tim Schweizer, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources speaking Wednesday to The Times, said the FOP release was misleading because the notices were issued in August 2015 and the layoffs were suspended, and also placed on hold last year.

“And, right now, those layoffs remain on hold,” said Schweizer in a phone interview.”

http://www.mywebtimes.com/news/local/state-says-conservation-police-layoffs-on-hold/article_07a74c35-4ac4-5524-bdfa-69f0620788a1.html

With the safe road amendment going through we will have to play a wait and see game as to where the DNR is going to come up with the lost revenue.

Posted by fooman on November 23

Thank you for sharing that piece. Indeed they are from the 2015 layoff notice situation, but - my understanding is that the court case that had the layoffs on hold had been settled in favor of the state, and it was anticipated that the layoffs would in turn go through. The CPOs that I spoke with were given no indication that the layoffs were on hold. I sincerely hope that they do remain on hold.

Posted by G on November 23

I will be seeking clarification regarding the info in the Times piece from IDNR on Monday when staff return to their offices.

Posted by G on November 23

We need enough guys to investigate big time poachers and take them down. 90 percent of what they do is referee because two people are acting like children over a buck deer. The way it is now, you have to e mail them so the culprit can never be caught anyway. You can get an appointment for a warden to come out 3 days later, then set up a fake crime for him to see when he gets there. I’ve seen that done before. If it were possible to have 3 CPO’s per county, and they would answer their phone and respond quicly like the police, that would be great, but that isn’t going to happen so think these cuts are a good idea from the standpoint of saving money and don’t see the cuts as a negative for hunters.

Posted by yellowstone on November 24

Illinois is broke.  You should feel lucky we have any at all.

If you are looking for better DNR support, I would suggest trying out Indiana.

Posted by Gobble Gobble on November 27

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